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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘CODA’: a must see movie

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Olivia Reid
A UMass Boston student watches “CODA” in the east residence hall on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Photo by Olivia Reid / Mass Media Staff

On Sunday, March 27, “CODA” made history at the Academy Awards. It won Best Supporting Actor, given to Troy Kotsur, who plays the father; Best Adapted Screenplay, given to the writer and director Siân Héder; and Best Picture. “CODA” is the first movie made for a streaming service that has won an Oscar. Even more historically important, Troy Kotsur is the first deaf male actor to receive an Academy Award, and the second deaf actor after Marlee Matlin—who is also in “CODA”—won in 1987. Kotsur plays Frank Rossi, a man who desires to care and provide for his family, who passionately loves his wife, who wants to understand his daughter and who wants to help his fishing community thrive.
“CODA” follows the story of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a seventeen year old senior in high school and the only hearing person in her family. Outside of school, she spends her time helping her family’s fishing business in Gloucester, Mass. While finishing up her senior year, Ruby realizes her passion for singing could turn into something bigger than just singing while working. She signs up for choir and is encouraged by her teacher, Mr. V (Eugene Derbez), to work on getting into Berklee College of Music. This desire, for most of the movie, is seen as directly working against her family’s success in their fishing business as they rely on Ruby for being their interpreter. It’s also something her family struggles with, specifically her mother, because she’s choosing to do something they can’t experience or enjoy, unless she chooses to be a rapper and use strong bass notes.
Ruby struggles with knowing her place in her family, being the only one who isn’t deaf, but she also struggles with her place at school due to being bullied and feeling the weight of people bullying her family. It also shows her older brother Leo (Daniel Durant) wrestling with his place in his family and work, feeling like he can’t be all his parents need to keep their business afloat. Both of these characters go through the movie trying to decide which identity they want to take on, making it a compelling coming of age story.
While with her brother and dad are fishing, Ruby just wants to sign with them and not interpret when she has to talk with the other fishermen around. But while she’s at school, she wants everyone to forget that she’s part of a deaf family, fearing negative reactions. Leo is deaf but wants to be able to practice reading lips and communicating with those outside of the deaf community, but struggles with being able to make efforts in communicating. These tensions continue to the end of the movie, when both these characters realize that their identity is bigger than just one thing, their identity is who they are fully. This reality is alluded to in the title. “CODA” means child of a deaf adult, which defines Ruby. But it also means the ending of a piece of music, tying to her passion for music and life after graduation, uniting both of her identities.
While there is still a gap in the portrayal and story of the deaf community, “CODA” is a step closer. The three deaf characters in the film are all played by deaf actors, which is unfortunately not always the norm. While this movie is not based on a true story, it has several elements of realism that make it feel like it could have actually happened. It shows the struggle deaf people have when they want to be more involved outside of the deaf community and it depicts the ignorance, selfishness and meanness some hearing people can have towards deaf people. The ending shows how beautiful it can be when both hearing and deaf people come together—the Rossi family by saving their business and the livelihood of those around them, and Ruby by how she helps her family communicate with others and experience her music.
Currently, “CODA” is only available on Apple TV+, but if for those who have bought a new Apple product recently, Apple allows access to Apple TV+ free for three months. For those who haven’t bought a new Apple product recently, Apple also offers a seven day free trial, which gives more than enough time to watch this beautiful, must-see film!

About the Contributor
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor